Tag Archives: Bruce Herschensohn

Pepperdine Honors 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Death with Screening and Exhibit

Herschensohn Exhibit Poster jpgOn Friday, November 22nd, from 2-4:30pm, fifty years to the day following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Pepperdine University Libraries and the School of Public Policy will host a screening of John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums, with director Bruce Herschensohn.

During the entire month of November, a complementary exhibit will be held in Payson Library that explores the making of this film with photographs, correspondence, posters, memorabilia, and other images.

The 90-minute film, produced by the United States Information Agency (USIA) and written and directed by Herschensohn, examined the life, death, and impact of John F. Kennedy shortly after his assassination. It features extensive excerpts from Kennedy’s speeches, including color footage of his swearing in and inaugural address. Gregory Peck served as the narrator of the film, and it was ultimately shown in more than 100 countries and in 30 languages. The USIA produced media about American for foreign audiences. Because audiences were so moved by this film, a special act of Congress in 1965 allowed it to be distributed in the U.S. for viewing by domestic audiences.

The film screening at Pepperdine will be followed by a Q&A with writer and director, Bruce Herschensohn. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibit, which will be on display in Payson Library throughout the month of November, features materials from the Bruce Herschsensohn Papers about the making of John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums. These materials document the filming of the worldwide reaction to Kennedy’s death, including the funeral proceedings in Washington, D.C., and memorial services around the world; the development of the film script and music; the worldwide release and international acclaim of the film; and the distribution within the U.S. Related materials can be found in the Pepperdine Digital Collections.

The materials in the exhibit are taken from the Bruce Herschensohn Papers, which are held by Pepperdine University’s Special Collections and University Archives, where they are available for research. Digital images from the collection are also available online in the Pepperdine Digital Collections. The collection includes items collected and created by Herschensohn as an independent filmmaker, a Director of Motion Pictures and Television at the United States Information Agency (USIA), a member of staff at the White House for Presidents Nixon and Reagan, and a political commentator for the KABC television and radio stations. Materials include correspondence, photographs, video and audio recordings, manuscripts, musical compositions, drawings, newspaper clippings, and other items related to the development of his films.

Bruce Herschensohn is a political commentator, author and senior fellow at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy in Malibu, California.  He served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations and is the author of nine books, in addition to being a filmmaker and producer.

Please contact Melissa Nykanen at (310) 506-4434 or at melissa.nykanen@pepperdine.edu for questions about the screening or exhibit.

Premiere of the film in Karachi, Pakistan, November 25, 1964.

Premiere of the film in Karachi, Pakistan, November 25, 1964.

A poster from the U.S. distribution of the film.

A poster from the U.S. distribution of the film.

Kennedy in June, 50 Years On: Today’s featured digital object

President Kennedy at the Berlin Wall in "The Five Cities of June"

It was Fifty years ago today that President John F. Kennedy made his historic Cold War era speech at the western gate of the Berlin Wall. The speech, highly critical of communism’s restrictions on personal freedom, included the memorable refrain “Let them come to Berlin” and, of course, the famous phrase “ich bin ein Berliner.” President Kennedy’s speech was captured by filmmaker Bruce Herschensohn, who used the speech as the final segment of his 1963 documentary The Five Cities of June.

Produced for the United States Information Agency, The Five Cities of June features five distinct historical events, each taking place in June 1963 in five different cities around the globe. These events include the election and coronation of Pope Paul VI in the Vatican; the launching of a rocket from an unknown Soviet location; skirmishes between North and South Vietnamese in Ben Tuong, South Vietnam; the integration of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa with the assistance of U.S. Marshals; and President Kennedy’s speech at the Berlin Wall. Charlton Heston provides the narration; Bruce Herschensohn provides the screenplay, music, and direction. The film was nominated for Best Achievement in Documentary Production (Short Subjects).

JFK and West Berlin Mayor Willie Brandt on souvenir postcard, 1963

The Bruce Herschensohn Collection in Pepperdine Digital Collections provides access to a wealth of rare materials related to the production of this film and the events it depicts. This includes correspondence, production notes, artwork, scripts, and ephemera. View, for example, a souvenir postcard from the Berlin Wall signed by President Kennedy bearing a special cancellation mark for the occasion. Click here to browse other materials in the Bruce Herschensohn Collection related to The Five Cities of June. You can view the entire 27-minute film here. Enjoy.

New Cold War era Herschensohn film online: Today’s featured digital object

Where were you at 5:02? May 18th, 1965, that is. Attending a Hindu wedding in New Delhi? Riding a roller coaster in Mexico City? Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rio de Janeiro? Or perhaps being born in San Diego? These are just some of the events captured by the film Eulogy to 5:02, written and produced by Bruce Herschensohn for the United States Information Agency in 1965. Narrated by Richard Burton, the 27-minute film presents twenty segments—each one-minute long—depicting a “minute lived in freedom” in twenty locations around the world. That minute? 5:02 Greenwich Mean Time on May 18th, 1965.

Filmmaker Bruce Herschensohn in 1965

It was a minute of no particular importance, but, as the opening narration tells us, “for the two-thirds of the world who lived in freedom on May the 18th, 5:02 was significant, for it was another minute spent in doing what they chose to do. Though their freedom went on as unnoticed as the time, 5:02 was theirs, to work if they wanted to work, to dream if they wanted to dream, to live as they wanted to live.”

Although clearly crafted for an explicit purpose at the height of the Cold War, Eulogy to 5:02 presents the viewer with a remarkable, multinational time capsule depicting life on Earth nearly 50 years ago. Tahitian women wash clothes on the beach as the sun rises; Arab construction workers build high-rise apartments in the planned-city of Ashdod, Israel; and youngsters play children’s games on the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark. A little closer to home, a salesman maneuvers his convertible through the labyrinthine freeway system of Los Angeles, where it is 9:02 AM (the lack of traffic congestion would startle today’s commuter). All scenes are scored with Herschensohn’s lively and dramatic music.

At least as interesting as the film itself is the story behind its creation. This story plays out in the digitized scripts, production notes, and correspondence of the Bruce Herschensohn Collection. Coordinating the simultaneous filming of twenty sequences in twenty global locations is a significant task—as is fudging the truth when circumstances don’t quite work out. Piecing this story together reveals as much about history and politics as it does about making movies.

Storyboard and still from "Eulogy to 5:02" refugee sequence

For example, the concluding one-minute segment of the film depicts the arrival of refugees to free soil. Herschensohn originally scripted the sequence with mainland Chinese seeking refuge in Hong Kong, but circumstances required the relocation of the scene to Vietnam. His instructions to the local film crew (employed by the USIA) included the following: “This is one of our main propaganda sequences and needs to come off with a real feeling of compassion. The family or families need to evoke a real empathy from the audience and no corn. The faces should be great old wrinkled faces as well as unknowing youth…” On May 24th, 1965, Ed Hunter of the USIA film crew in Saigon wrote to Herschensohn with news of the successful, although arduous night of filming. “I risked my life, got soaked to the skin, and was arrested four times during the shooting, if you like the footage and can’t pay, send a present.” The night before the film shoot, he explains, Vietcong disguised as Marines attacked an outpost only a quarter of a mile from the location. Hunter also references the bombing of the US embassy less than two months earlier, which his crew also documented. “Ghastly. Truly ghastly.” He writes of the embassy: “We now have safety glass in our office windows, and they have bricked up the library downstairs. Come back to Saigon…”

See the results for yourself. Click here to watch Eulogy to 5:02 in its entirety and then explore the materials related to the film in the Bruce Herschensohn Collection. Enjoy.

Herschensohn’s Eulogy to 5:02: Today’s featured digital object

Pepperdine students today may know Bruce Herschensohn for his memorable appearances as a senior fellow with the School of Public Policy. Others may recall his political commentary in the media, his roles in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, or his California Senate campaigns of 1986 and 1992. However, few may know that he got his start as an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Artwork for film "Eulogy to 5:02"

Herschensohn made numerous films for the United States Information Agency (USIA), becoming that agency’s Director of Motion Pictures and Television in 1968. Production materials related to many of these films, including scripts, storyboards, notes, correspondence, and artwork—and many of the films themselves—await discovery in our Bruce Herschensohn Collection. This online collection is an ever-growing digital surrogate for the complete Bruce Herschensohn Papers, which are among the holdings of our Special Collections and University Archives department.

In 1965, Herschensohn had the unique idea to make a film about twenty simultaneous stories going on all over the world during the course of a single minute (5:02 PM Greenwich) on an unspecified day. Each segment from locations such as London, Copenhagen, Karachi, New Delhi, Hong Kong, San Juan, Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Lagos, lasts one minute. The theme, according to Herschensohn, was to demonstrate that “we all have in common the fact that we’re alive NOW and share this common time in the world’s history.” Produced, as it was, by the USIA, the film was also designed to show how US policies were positively impacting the lives of ordinary people around the world.

Click here to browse the Herschensohn material related to Eulogy to 5:02.

Friendship 7: Today’s featured digital object

As the era of the space shuttle comes to an end, today’s digital object takes us back to a milestone in the history of spaceflight. On February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth in a space capsule, circling the planet three times before safely splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. The mission, part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Project Mercury, was called MA-6. The capsule piloted by Glenn was called Friendship 7. A documentary film by the same name captured the dramatic events of that eventful day and was released by NASA later the same year. Friendship 7, the film, showcased American achievement at the height of the space race with the Soviet Union, and remains a classic audiovisual document of the early days of human spaceflight.

Filming Friendship 7 documentary

In this photo, we see a young man astride a camera crane in the NASA mission control center filming a scene from Friendship 7 among the frenzied activities of flight controllers. The man behind the camera is Bruce Herschensohn, who also served as the film’s editor and score composer. In total, Herschensohn contributed to the production of nearly fifty films for various U.S. government agencies—but this was just one facet of a long, truly multifaceted career that traversed politics and academia.

Pepperdine University is now home to the Bruce Herschensohn Collection, which features the personal papers of this important politician, scholar, and filmmaker, including his notes, photographs, correspondence, media clippings, and other ephemera. The collection documents his professional life, including his work with the U.S. Information Agency during the 1960s, his roles in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, as a political commentator for television and radio, and as a senior fellow with Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy. You can easily search the collection for the photo above and all materials related to Friendship 7 and many other films of the period.